Throughout the year, Brooklyn Magazine partners with the McCarren Hotel to give New York creatives a two-night staycation in the heart of Williamsburg and the opportunity to show us their favorite spots in the neighborhood. The McCarren Hotel offers an urban retreat with an ideal location for exploring one of Brooklyn’s most exciting neighborhoods. With their newly opened restaurant Oleanders, a rooftop bar, signature cocktails, one of the city’s largest outdoor swimming pools, and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, the McCarren Hotel & Pool has something for travelers and locals alike, every season of the year.
“I used to do my homework at my dad’s bar, sitting at the stools,” Sweet Chick owner John Seymour tells us when we meet at the McCarren Hotel. Seymour is a native New Yorker with Irish roots, whose exposure to the hospitality industry dates back to childhood. He’s gone on to open neighborhood favorite Pop’s, two Sweet Chick locations, plus two newly launched spots, Pearl’s and Ludlow Coffee Supply. The McCarren will be his home base as he and his wife, Fallon, explore the neighborhood over the next two days. Seymour and his family live nearby, but between his three young children, frequent travel, and running an ever-expanding restaurant empire, the staycation is a welcomed break. After catching up for a bit, John leads us out on a tour of his favorite Williamsburg spots in the neighborhood that he has called home for over a decade.
Our first stop is Brooklyn Denim Co on North 3rd, where John immediately greets one of the employees like an old friend. “I love this store, the people are very cool. I don’t even necessarily have to buy something, I always just have a good talk with the people here.”
After trying on some clothes and catching up with the staff, we head across the street to Dépanneur, a rustic grocery store and coffee shop. Seymour counts it amongst his sacred places in the neighborhood; not for working or taking meetings, but reserved as his “spot in Williamsburg to go to reflect.”
From Depanneur, we head down Grand Street to Sprout Home. Sprout is a tranquil plant and gardening shop that makes you forget you’re in the city for a moment. John has been here before to pick out greenery for his restaurants, but today, he and Fallon are on a quest for some plants to spruce up their new apartment. “It’s wonderful what they can do for a space, but I can’t keep one alive… I’m new to the plant game.”
Next up is a lunch break at Fallon’s new Caribbean restaurant, Pearl’s. We order the house speciality, Bake & Shark, a Trinidadian street food consisting of fried shark meat between a pieces of lightly fried flatbread. The sandwich-like meal is served up with five different sauces. Fallon’s advice: use them all.
From Pearl’s, we walk across the street to the other Seymour institution, Sweet Chick. “I enjoy being here. Sweet Chick serves as a place I wanted to see growing up. I want people to leave here and say ‘They took care of me.’”
We wrap up the evening at the McCarren Hotel’s bar & restaurant, Oleanders. The space itself is striking–a cavernous room filled with shrubs and greenery, checkerboard floors, and quirky wall art that evokes a Wes Anderson vibe. “I really dig the ambiance, it provides calming experience,” John notes.
We sit down for drinks at the bar, servedby lead barman Francis Verrall, who makes his Brooklyn debut after putting in time at Upper East Side cocktail havens Seamstress and The Gilroy. Dinner follows, and John and Fallon order up a sampling of the new menu by Chef Kevin Chojnowski (Public, Willow Road). Their meal includes burrata with truffle honey to start, cider-braised short ribs, diver scallops with risotto cakes, crispy brussels sprouts, and an indulgent bone marrow bacon cheeseburger.
As the dinner comes to an end, the couple calls special attention to the service, complimenting the friendliness of the staff. Certainly high praise coming from the Seymours, who’s own brand of hospitality defines their restaurants as much as the food
Interview by Nicholas Coyne | Photos by Jason Bergman